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Commencement Means Beginning

Howard Fast

This is the beginning of something, and along with pride there's a curious, unresolved fear. As a matter of fact, it's the first fear of just this sort; because until now he was a moppet, a little squirt, a freckled kid who banged loose and aimlessly, like one of those hard rubber balls attached to a string; and no matter what he did, whether to go down Main Street on his hands, or bait Mrs. Lammy's goat, or get himself burned from head to foot with poison ivy, or fight three times a day, or get the mumps, the strong string was always there, ready to rescue him, ready to pull him home to safety and security.

And now that's all over and done. Before now, life was one sunny day running into another; there was a hazy past and a completely unimportant future, both of which mingled comfortably. Now, for the first time, the future is real and valid.

Thereby comes the resentment in his wide eyes, the ready, tense stand. The little scroll of paper is both a challenge and a threat, and the man who holds it out to him has become his equal.

Perhaps that word is running through his mind, equal; from here on, man to man, both feet on the ground, face to face.

He stands in front of an audience which includes his mother and father, his sister and his brother, his aunt and uncle, the neighbors, the policeman and the mayor--and, after a fashion, the whole world. This is his judgment day, his first judgment day, and again for the first time, he has put himself in the balance, weighed himself.

This little scroll of paper he has earned, and that too is something for him to consider. His tense muscles give him a new and exciting sensation of strength. A hundred memories rush through his mind, and after them five hundred promises. In a grim world, the future is peculiarly his responsibility; and that he senses the way a fine hunting dog gets the wind of running game. At this moment, just a tug at his coattail would bring him snarling to bay.

After he takes the diploma, he will relax. He will feel a little foolish about all the crazy things he thought and dreamed in the short moment he stood there waiting. He will feel embarrassed and hungry and he will want to get home.

But make no mistake, he's not the way he was before; don't try to treat him as you did before. Now it's his world too, to make better or worse. And he's a step ahead of you; he's learned by your mistakes, and he's going into life with his eyes wide open.